Miami’s economic development agency should tell the public why its outgoing director is getting $200,000 to hang around another year.
That is a lot of dough and time when Miami DDA has announced seasoned executive John Elizabeth Alemán as its new head.
After all, the Miami DDA isn’t Uber. It generates money by taxing properties in the district.
Do you think that the mom-and-pops who operate downtown and around Brickell Avenue at the beck and call of Latin America’s economies would support such a move? Like their Brazilian brethren, they’d say, “não” (“no” in Portuguese) to outgoing chief Alyce Robertson, who ran the DDA for 11 years.
We aren’t the only one asking questions.
County Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who sits on the DDA board, was quoted in The Miami Herald as questioning the need for such a lengthy overlap as Robertson departs and Alemán moves in. “I have never seen this kind of lengthy transition in any organization. I come from the private sector. People transition, and they move the vision forward. And it’s not that they don’t need the assistance and the advice and the wisdom of their predecessor, but that can be done in two weeks or four weeks.”
The kind of brief transition that Higgins recommended is commonplace in private industry and even governmental bodies. But giving Robertson an office and a large salary for a year seems like the Board of the DDA is putting training wheels on the first year of Alemán’s tenure, whether she wants it or not.
So, what gives?
More questions arise when you consider Alemán’s resume.
The former Miami Beach City Commissioner surprised local politicos when she announced that she would not be running for a second term and applied for the Miami DDA job.
Alemán was chosen ahead of 400 other applicants in a search led by consulting firm Korn Ferry. Alemán’s application package was one of the last to be tossed over the transom. The job pays $198,000 a year, with an annual summer bonus of $34,650.
Alemán’s credentials seem to make her a good fit for the job. She had 14 years at Ryder System where she was the company’s international director for information technology and she was the CIO of MasTec. She’s a skilled manager.
What makes her hiring odd is the way in which the DDA is handling the transition.
The work of the DDA is meant to improve the quality of life in the downtown corridor. Under Robertson, the agency oversaw multimillion-dollar beautification projects and pushed the County and State to fund the tunnel with PortMiami. The DDA has also had a voice in urban planning as former vacant parking lots were turned into luxury condo developments.
However, the work isn’t such that it requires a beast with two heads to operate. The DDA is semi-autonomous and has the funds so that it can afford to double up and pay both Robertson and Alemán. But the question isn’t whether it can, the question is whether it should.
Robertson did a good job as the Executive Director. However, the job has come to an end. Robertson should help Alemán transition for a few weeks and then go. Then, it will be up to Alemán to show if she is up to the job.